Delhi breathes eas­ier, no odd­even for now

Govt files fresh plea as green court re­fuses ex­emp­tions; AQI down to 308

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Metro - HT Cor­re­spon­dents htre­porters@hin­dus­tan­times.com n

NEW DELHI: The Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) sent back a Delhi gov­ern­ment pe­ti­tion seek­ing ex­emp­tions in the odd-even road ra­tioning scheme, call­ing it in­ad­e­quate, on a day when pol­lu­tion lev­els in the city im­proved dra­mat­i­cally.

The av­er­age air qual­ity in­dex (AQI), which was “se­vere” for the last seven days, fell more than 150 points to 308 on Tues­day — the low­est since Oc­to­ber 23 — pri­mar­ily due to higher wind speeds at the ground level.

“The lev­els of par­tic­u­late mat­ter, which had shot up nearly eight times above the safe stan­dards on Sun­day, are go­ing down,” Di­pankar Saha, chief of the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (CPCB) air lab­o­ra­tory, told HT.

High-al­ti­tude winds that usu­ally bring in pol­lu­tants from out­side have calmed down, and the sur­face level winds that flush out lo­cal pol­lu­tants are gath­er­ing speed, the CPCB ex­pert said.

The gov­ern­ment’s mon­i­tor­ing agency SAFAR has pre­dicted that pol­lu­tion lev­els will im­prove fur­ther on Wednesday, but the Met depart­ment has warned that light rain could worsen the sit­u­a­tion on Thurs­day if the mois­ture traps pol­lu­tants in the air.

On Tues­day, the NGT, while hear­ing the Delhi gov­ern­ment’s mod­i­fi­ca­tion pe­ti­tion on odd­e­ven, pulled up the city ad­min­is­tra­tion for in­ac­tion that had led to an “en­vi­ron­men­tal and health emer­gency”.

“Courts can’t hold the fin­gers of de­part­ments like par­ents do with chil­dren. You have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity, and take ac­tion to fight pol­lu­tion,” a bench headed by NGT chair­per­son Jus­tice Swatan­ter Ku­mar said.

“Don’t gift in­fected lungs to chil­dren. They have to wear masks to school. What con­sti­tutes a health emer­gency ac­cord­ing to you?” NGT to Delhi gov­ern­ment

The Delhi gov­ern­ment wants ve­hi­cles driven by women and two-wheel­ers to be ex­empted from the odd-even plan — un­der which only odd- and even-num­bered pri­vate ve­hi­cles can ply on the roads on al­ter­nate days. But the NGT last week called the scheme a “farce” and said the ex­emp­tions de­feat the pur­pose of the anti-pol­lu­tion mea­sure.

On Tues­day, the Delhi gov­ern­ment filed yet an­other re­view pe­ti­tion urg­ing the NGT to re­con­sider its de­ci­sion, with one ad­di­tion — the odd-even plan ap­ply to the en­tire Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion, and not just to Delhi.

The fall in pol­lu­tion lev­els has led to a new prob­lem that ex­poses the in­abil­ity of the au­thor­i­ties in com­bat­ing Delhi’s pol­lu­tion cri­sis.

Civic agen­cies, par­tic­u­larly the city’s mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions, started rolling back mea­sures im­ple­mented un­der the anti-pol­lu­tion Graded Re­sponse Ac­tion Plan (GRAP) with­out any such di­rec­tion by the mon­i­tor­ing au­thor­ity.

The South Delhi Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion on Tues­day said it would go back to its usual park­ing rate of Rs 20 per hour for four­wheel­ers and Rs 10 per hour for two-wheel­ers from Wednesday night. The GRAP had called for a four­fold hike in park­ing fees un­til fur­ther no­tice.

Mem­bers of the Supreme Court-ap­pointed pol­lu­tion con­trol panel, EPCA, said a hasty roll­back was a con­tra­ven­tion of the GRAP guide­lines, and that the Delhi ad­min­is­tra­tion were once again mak­ing the mis­take of tak­ing the pol­lu­tion prob­lem lightly.

Mean­while, pol­i­tics over pol­lu­tion con­tin­ued with Delhi chief min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal ask­ing Pun­jab CM Cap­tain Amarinder Singh for a meet­ing to dis­cuss crop burn­ing in his state, which has been blamed for much of Delhi’s pol­lu­tion woes. Ke­jri­wal is slated to meet Haryana chief min­is­ter ML Khat­tar in Chandigarh over the is­sue on Wednesday.

Ke­jri­wal got into two pub­lic spats with Amarinder and Khat­tar over the last few days about who is re­spon­si­ble for Delhi’s bad air, which each blam­ing the other for not do­ing enough.

SANJEEV VERMA/ HT PHOTO

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